Surely not in my Church?

Surely not in my church?

‘I think many, like me, do not tell when they are experiencing abuse. I felt ashamed and I didn’t want people to know’ Female Survivor (aged 60-69)

In Churches Too

Shame and stigma around domestic abuse can keep survivors of domestic abuse silent for years. This is also true in our churches where there is pressure to make marriages work. Earlier this year ground-breaking research, by Coventry University and the University of Leicester, on the levels of domestic abuse amongst churchgoers across Cumbria was released.

It revealed that 1 in 4 churchgoers (sample size 438) had experienced abuse in their current relationship (women and men). This rose to 42.2% when a previous relationship was included. For Restored it confirmed what we already knew, that domestic abuse is in our churches too. And not just one or two, but at shocking levels.

What is domestic abuse?

At the heart of domestic abuse is the misuse of power to control another person. Different methods or tools of abuse are used to maintain that control or power over another person and the abuser can switch methods when one tactic isn’t working. Abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, verbal, physical and sexual. In church we can add spiritual abuse to that list too. In essence misusing Bible verses to control or coerce another person into doing something they do not want to do of their own free will.

How big an issue is it?

These figures may not be a surprise to some, yet at Restored we have often received the reaction of ‘surely not in my church?’ when we raise awareness about domestic abuse. The sad reality is that with 1 in 4 women in the UK suffering abuse in her lifetime then yes, it probably is in our church.

The question is, are we speaking about it? Are we providing safe spaces for survivors to get the help and support that they need? Is our church linked to the local service provider that we can refer survivors to when abuse is disclosed?

What we didn’t expect at Restored was that the research also revealed that six women were living in fear of their lives. That should shock us. It should move us to action. But will it?

Speaking out

Earlier this year Gavin Shuker MP and Jess Phillips MP spoke on a panel at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, about engaging faith leaders in the response to ending violence against women. The role of faith and the Church is crucial if we are to see an end to domestic abuse. The church can be a part of the answer as churches can be places of transformation of the heart and spirit, not just the head.

What you can do in response

Restored operates to raise awareness and train churches to respond appropriately and effectively to domestic abuse. Restored collaborates with Thirty One:Eight to provide training for churches; you can invite us in, to train your church congregation and staff. We have a free resource pack for churches to give you ideas and get you started, available to download at www.restoredrelationships.org/churchpack.

We also engage men specifically in the response via our First Man Standing campaign https://www.restoredrelationships.org/what-we-do/working-with-men/

The 25th November starts a global 16 days of action to end violence against women which runs through to Human Rights day on Dec 10th. Find out who your local service provider is for shelters & refuges and link in with them. Could you put toilet door posters up in the loos so survivors know where to get help and support? Could your church make the Christmas offering a gift to the local refuge, many of whom are struggling in the current financial climate? Could you support Restored? www.give.net/Restored

The Domestic Abuse bill is being consulted on as it progresses through parliament. Please, take a few minutes to write and encourage your MP to ensure that faith organisations/churches are included in response (and support Restored’s consultation submission on this).

We need as a church community to break the silence because, in the words of a female survivor quoted in the research, ‘I didn’t realise until much later that I was suffering from abuse and the damage it did remains with me.’

 

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